When people tell me they can’t do yoga, or pursue teaching yoga, because they’re not flexible, I whip out my Michael Phelps story.

Undeniably Michael Phelps is probably the greatest and most well-known professional swimmer of our time. In the summer of 2012, Michael took the record for most medals in an Olympic career. He competed again in 2016 and added to his stash of gold medals.

So you might be reading this thinking I’m going to brag about how Michael practiced yoga to prepare for the Olympics.

I have no idea if yoga was a part of his regiment.

But he does provide an object lesson.

Does the fact that Michael Phelps is a fish wearing a man suit make you not want to go swimming? At all? As in, you’re never stepping foot in a pool ever again?

If I said to you, “Hey, let’s go to the pool.”

Would you sputter and give me one of the following excuses?

  • I’m not a good swimmer
  • I don’t have a fast time in the pool
  • Swimming is just for girls
  • I can’t do the all the different strokes
  • I can’t swim as good as Michael Phelps

Probably not.

If you like the water, live where it gets really hot, or are a member of nice fitness facility, chances are you’ve taken advantage of getting in the pool–whether it’s to do laps and exercise, cool off, or have a little fun.

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Too many people when asked about trying yoga for the first time, compare themselves to the penultimate yogis who can twist, bend, and turn their bodies into unbelievable poses.

Like Michael Phelps, there are yogis who could probably try out for Cirque de Soleil. And some of those talented yogis get featured in magazines and commercials, just like Michael.

Yet his incredible swimming accomplishments don’t scare you from jumping in the pool.

But if you’re shying away from yoga studios and classes because:

  • You’re not flexible
  • You can’t do that with your body
  • Yoga is just stretching
  • Yoga is just for girls
  • You’ll never be like _________.

Then you’re cheating yourself out of something that is as relaxing as cool water on a hot day and losing out on the wide range of benefits that yoga offers. Just like swimming, there is a level of yoga that you can enjoy without having to be naturally flexible or an elite athlete.

There’s only one Michael Phelps. Yet there are still tens of thousands of people who swim for the love of it or the exercise of it.

Let’s Apply the Same Idea to teaching yoga

I can pose (pun intended) a similar challenge to potential teachers.

Most of Michael Phelps’ swimming coaches were NOT Olympic athletes. Nor were they at the competitive level that Michael achieved. However that didn’t take away from the coaches’ talents and abilities to move Michael into elite circles of swimming–to motivate and to teach Michael how to perform at his highest potential.

Stop comparing yourself to the Michael Phelps of the yoga world and dive into your nearest yoga class. Or if you’ve been putting off teacher training because you “can’t do all the poses,” just stop. You can be an amazing teacher without being able to do all the postures.

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bare feet dangling in pool

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